GSK, Amarin could suffer as fish oil pills lose their sheen

Should Amarin Pharmaceuticals ($AMRN) investors be less worried about the company's market exclusivity on its new Vascepa pill--and more about disenchantment with omega-3 fatty acids? Forbes poses this question in an analysis of the market for prescription "fish oil" pills.

As Forbes points out, a few years ago, scientists and doctors were excited about using prescription-strength omega-3 to lower triglycerides and, hopefully, help treat heart failure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. But new data suggests that fish oil pills, including prescription-strength omega-3 drugs, may not be so helpful after all.

And perhaps even more telling, doctors say they're cooling to the remedies--and prescriptions for GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Lovaza, Vascepa's head-to-head competitor, are dropping.

Lovaza racked up 2.6 million prescriptions for the first 6 months of 2012, a rate that would translate into 5.2 million for the full year, if the trend persists. That would be a significant drop from 2011, when Lovaza scripts amounted to 5.7 million, up from 5.6 million in 2010 and 4.8 million in 2009, Forbes notes.

Amarin's Vascepa has an apparent edge on Lovaza, Forbes says, because the latter raises "bad cholesterol." Vascepa doesn't. But the real edge may be found in a freely available product without any sort of market exclusivity: Fatty fish. As one doctor said in a survey about Lovaza and Vascepa (as quoted by Forbes), "If you want to get your fish oil, eat your fish."

- read the Forbes piece